Tesla Abortion Law Snub
Tests GOP Lawmaker Mettle
May 6, 2022
The stage was set on Friday for a heavyweight fight of herculean magnitude when Tesla announced that it will pay the travel costs for employees who are seeking abortions in other states.
Briscoe Cain vs. Elon Musk.
Cain - a Deer Park Republican who's one of the Texas House's most powerful members - has been vowing to draft legislation that would punish private companies that do what the electric carmaker that's based in Austin revealed today that it planned to do.
Musk owns Tesla and has built a Texas Gigafactory that will manufacture SUVs and Cybertrucks in the Capital City. The world's richest person, Musk has a SpaceX development plant in McGregor and a launching pad in Brownsville. Musk relocated Tesla's headquarters to Austin in December 2020 with massive fanfare and Governor Greg Abbott as his most prominent fan.
Cain could be out on a limb alone with his retaliation plans for corporations that defy his interpretation of the so-called heartbeat bill that's prohibited most abortions since Republican state lawmakers approved it in 2021 with Abbott's vigorous support and signature.
Cain served the original sponsor of the new Texas voting restriction law as the Elections Committee chairman in his third term as a representative. Having no experience as a major bill sponsor, Cain stumbled in his first attempt before the elections measure died after a suspicious chain of events in a conference committee that he co-chaired in the 2021 regular session.
GOP Speaker Dade Phelan replaced Cain in the lead role on the voting limitation bill that finally passed in a second special session last summer. But Cain demonstrated his resiliency when he guided a bill that banned social media censorship to success in the same special session.
Cain appeared to have a tacit green light from Phelan earlier this year when he sent a cease-and-desist letter to the titan financial firm Citigroup after it announced that it would cover employee costs of traveling out-of-state for abortions. The proposal that Cain is crafting would bar local governments in Texas from doing business with companies that do end-arounds on the abortion law.
Some of the Republicans in Austin argue that private businesses could be charged with criminal offenses for assisting in abortions. But some of the largest corporations in Texas like Amazon and Apple have treated Cain's threats as rhetorical bluster and ignored them.
Tesla has given all of them the ultimate cover by following the same path without apparent concern for the wrath of Cain or other tough-talking Texas conservatives. But Cain appears to be determined to seek revenge and may not fear or care about what Musk might think about him.
But the Tesla announcement today complicate Cain's quest considering how Musk is idolized by the conservative GOP base and some of the state's highest ranking leaders. Twitter and Facebook lit up with cheers and accolades from the far right when Tesla decided to spurn California and move to Texas, which Abbott has hailed as the freedom capital of America.
Abbott and Musk posed together at the Texas Capitol in February with hook `em horns signs while sitting under a picture of the battle of the Alamo.
"Elon Musk may not have been invited to the White House, but he has been in the Governor’s Office at the Texas Capitol," Abbott tweeted. "And now, Tesla’s headquarters are in Texas too."
The question now becomes whether Musk will still be welcome in Abbott's office on the second floor of the statehouse? Musk might choose to avoid Cain's office in the west wing as someone who may be persona non grata there now.
Cain posed a question to Musk on Twitter on April 27 with a screen shot of a tweet that he posted in response to Democratic gubernatorial Beto O'Rourke's promise as a presidential candidate in 2019 to ban assault rifles. "My AR is ready for you Robert Francis." Cain declared in a tweet.
"@elonmusk, if this happened today, would I be suspended for 141 days like last time?" Cain asked the Tesla founder.